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Wolves habituate to humans in Arctic Finland, but dogs pay ultimate price

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic
istockphoto

The Finnish Wildlife Agency has granted special permits to shoot two wolves in the town of Juuka in east Finland because the animals have repeatedly killed dogs in the area.

Meanwhile a gentler approach is being taken against a lone wolf in the town of Pieksämäki, also located in eastern Finland.

The Juuka hunting licenses are in effect for two weeks within a limited area. Seven dogs have been killed there since October, including two hunting dogs last weekend.

Local officials say the two wolves are young individuals who do not seem to fear humans and find dogs to be easier game than elk. They urge locals to keep a close eye on all pets and domestic animals. 

The Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute estimates that there are between 180-200 wolves in Finland. Some 90-110 of these are believed to be in Eastern Finland, mostly in the regions of Kainuu, North Savo and North Karelia. At least seven litters of pups were born there last spring.

Lone wolf in Pieksämäki

Meanwhile a wolf has remained around residential areas of Pieksämäki in east-central Finland after killing a dog there last week. The wolf was earlier fitted with a tracking collar by the Game and Fisheries Research Institute so its movements have been easy to track, even though it has not been sighted.

Commissioner Hannu Jäppinen of the South Savo Police says the wolf has been moving around at night in a relatively small area in Hirvipohja, a few kilometres from the centre of Pieksämäki, a town of 20,000 people.

He said it is unusual for a wolf to remain in such a small area, but that efforts are underway to encourage it to move on.

In the meantime, he says, people should keep pets on leash and avoid the forests unless necessary.

"And maybe children shouldn't be left alone to wait for the school bus," Jäppinen suggests. However he points out that wolves are by nature shy creatures who avoid humans.

"There are packs roaming around North Karelia at times, but when was the last time a wolf attacked a person? Still, it's not a comforting thought to have a wild animal like that wandering around your back garden."

No-one has been killed by a wolf in Finland since 1882.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.